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by Kirsteen Paterson
28 August 2023
Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn: I might retain British citizenship after UK split

Jamie Hepburn photographed for Holyrood by Andrew Perry

Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn: I might retain British citizenship after UK split

Jamie Hepburn, Scotland's Minister for Independence, has told Holyrood he may retain British citizenship after a UK split.

In an interview for Holyrood's Annual Review, which looks back across the political year, Hepburn said he had not decided whether or not he would give up British citizenship if Scotland becomes independent.

He said: "I don't earnestly know. It might be possible that I would retain it."

Hepburn, who is the first person to hold the Scottish Government role, was appointed by Humza Yousaf in March and has responsibility over independence strategy and the publication of the Building a New Scotland series.

First announced by Nicola Sturgeon before she left office, five of the reports have been published so far, covering areas including the economy, a written constitution and citizenship.

The most recent to be released, the citizenship paper was launched in July and set out the criteria for citizenship of an independent Scotland. It said individuals living north of the border would gain Scottish citizenship automatically in the event of independence. However, they would also be given the option of retaining their British citizenship.

Launching the paper, Yousaf said he had not come to a firm decision about what he would do. When asked if he would keep his British citizenship, he said: "I've not thought much about it, but I probably wouldn't, I would just have my Scottish citizenship."

Work by Hepburn's department has been branded "irresponsible" by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and led to a review of civil service involvement by UK Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, head of the civil service. That's despite John-Paul Marks, Scotland's most senior civil servant, defending the role and integrity of officials.

The results of the Case review are expected within weeks. On the likely outcome, Hepburn said: "I think that the Scottish Government will be able to continue undertaking this activity. We've got a legitimate right to do so. The civil service operates to the political direction that any elected government has."

On whether he has discussed the matter with Marks, Hepburn said the two had last spoken shortly after his appointment. Branding the criticism "nonsensical", the minister went on: "I would never seek to influence him in any way, shape or form. The operational independence of the civil service is important.

"The permanent secretary has been clear: the civil service on an impartial, neutral basis, work to the agenda of the democratically elected government of the day. In any role I have occupied, I’ve been lucky to work with first class civil servants who will always respond to the requests and requirements of those of us who have been elected to public office and occupied ministerial roles. That’s how it should work.

"The people of Scotland voted for the composition of this government, part of the prospectus we stood on was to advance the cause of independence. The idea that it’s irregular is frankly nonsensical. It’s really a challenge for other people in their ongoing battle to try and reconcile themselves to the reality that the SNP is in government, and is in government legitimately."

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